Your first time lining up for a beer release can be pretty daunting, but it doesn’t have to be!
You check your phone to find that your favorite brewery is releasing a new beer that you just have to try. Filled with dread, you realize that this beer is just too hot – you’ll never be able to get it anywhere but the brewery itself, and everyone and their mother will be there. That only means one thing: you have to line up early on release day. Stay calm! I’ve been on a bunch of lines since I started getting into craft beer, including small ones at Finback and huge ones at Other Half. I definitely haven’t seen everything, but I’ve clocked enough hours to share a few pointers – hopefully these can make your intro to the line life a lot more painless!
Feel Out the Hype
The best first step is to read through the comments on these release announcements. These days they are typically conducted through Instagram, and a quick glance can provide insight as to how many people are planning to line up, and how early they’ll be there. There are also a few beer groups on Facebook, and if you’re not part of one yet you might want to look at some local ones – they can be even more enlightening.
Dress for the Weather
Weather is the most important factor in the line-waiting experience. A sudden downpour or prolonged snow shower can quickly ruin anyone’s day – even more so if you’re stuck on the line for a few hours. As you can expect, it’s always best to err on the side of caution, especially when it’s cold. You can always take off extra layers when it’s warm but you can’t produce more layers out of thin air. If you have a car, throw an extra coat and umbrella in the trunk. Or better yet, just wait in the car as you can catch some shut-eye while being protected from the elements. Just make sure that people remember your place in line!
Sometimes you have to get creative to stay warm.
Know the Area
My worst line experiences outside of poor weather were usually caused by hunger, thirst, or the need to use the bathroom. Some places will cater their releases or have a 24 hour eatery nearby, but that is definitely not always the case. Take a look at the local area on Yelp or Google Maps and see what’s around. You can (and should) bring plenty of snacks and water if you are playing on staying up all night, but having access to a bathroom whenever you need it can be tricky. Don’t forget that you’re not alone, so once stores with bathrooms do open up, expect some more crazy lines.
A lot of people ask me why I (or anyone for that matter) would wait hours and hours on end just to spend money on beer. My favorite answer is that it’s not just about the beer, but about the people too. I could arrive hours later and possibly still get what I came out for, but part of the experience is the people you meet. I love the beer community; going to releases I’ve made a ton of friends, and I find the conversation does wonder to help pass the time. People come from all over to beer releases, so mixed in among the “regulars” you can never be sure who you’ll meet.
Seeing a row of beers on display for trade is a pretty common occurrence on line.
Many of you might be wondering why I would say to bring beer to a beer release. After all, why make yourself carry more? Well the beer you bring home might not be what you brought out. A ton of beer trading happens on these lines, and it’s a great place to find beers from outside your local area. Again, it’s smart to go back to social media and see what FTs (for trades) and ISOs (in search ofs) are popping up. In addition to possibly trading your current stash for something new, you might find someone willing to trade for what you’re picking up that release!
Depending on where you’re going you might be waiting on line for hours at a time, so it’s important to make sure you’re comfortable. You definitely don’t want to be standing the whole time, so if you plan to attend releases going forward you’ll want something to sit in. Foldable chairs are pretty cheap and easy to find, which make a great addition to your line essentials. You might also want to consider getting a neck pillow, or even a small blanket. Just think of it as being on a long plane ride, except this wait has fresh beer at the end of it!
Yes, there is someone sleeping under there!
A lot of releases happen on weekends pretty early on in the day, and it’s important to keep everyone else in mind, especially if the brewery is located in a more residential area. If people are loud or make a huge mess while waiting, the neighbors can, should and most likely will complain and cause the brewery to change the way they run their releases. Everyone has to do their part to keep the whole process as simple and smooth as possible. This goes for your interactions with fellow line-waiters as well. Cutting in line, causing a fight or any kind of drama is pretty obviously never a good idea.
Hope these tips help you get the most out of your first beer release experience, or make your next run a bit smoother! Have any more tips to share, or perhaps a crazy line life story (beer or otherwise)? Feel free to comment them down below! Happy hunting!